For more than thirty years, Edie and Richard Middlestein shared a solid family life together in the suburbs of Chicago. But now things are splintering apart, for one reason, it seems: Edie's enormous girth. She's obsessed with food--thinking about it, eating it--and if she doesn't stop, she won't have much longer to live.
When Richard abandons his wife, it is up to the next generation to take control. Robin, their schoolteacher daughter, is determined that her father pay for leaving Edie. Benny, an easy-going, pot-smoking family man, just wants to smooth things over. And Rachelle-- a whippet thin perfectionist-- is intent on saving her mother-in-law's life, but this task proves even bigger than planning her twin children's spectacular b'nai mitzvah party. Through it all, they wonder: do Edie's devastating choices rest on her shoulders alone, or are others at fault, too?
With pitch-perfect prose, huge compassion, and sly humor, Jami Attenberg has given us an epic story of marriage, family, and obsession. The Middlesteins explores the hopes and heartbreaks of new and old love, the yearnings of Midwestern America, and our devastating, fascinating preoccupation with food.
A panoply of neurotic characters fills Attenberg's multigenerational novel about a Midwestern Jewish family. Shifting points of view tell the story of the breakup and aftermath of Edie and Richard Middlestein's nearly 40-year marriage as Edie slowly eats herself to death. Richard and his brilliant but demanding and ever larger wife raised two children. Robin is intense and hostile; Benny lives an idyll with his wife, Rachelle, in the Chicago suburbs, sharing a joint after putting their twins to bed at night. Much of Rachelle's time is spent assuring that the twins' b'nai mitzvah extravaganza goes off without a hitch. When complications surrounding Edie's diabetes precipitate Richard's filing for divorce, the already tightly wound Rachelle becomes obsessed with the family's physical and moral health. Soon the affable Benny's hair is falling out in clumps. Attenberg (Instant Love) makes her characters' thoughts Richard and Benny in particular seem utterly real, and her wry, observational humor often hits sideways rather than head-on. Edie's overeating, described with great sensuality, will resonate, with only the obstreperousness of all three generations of Middlestein women (granddaughter Emily included) marring this wonderfully messy and layered family portrait.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Middlesteins I want more!
I really liked the subtle humor of the writing of this novel. The various characters are real.....like people you may know! The Middlesteins is thoroughly engaging and hard to put down. I want to know how these characters fared during the rest of their lives!
Terrible book about shaming fat people
I read good reviews about this book before I purchased it. What a mistake! The author must really hate fat people. She also has no understanding of how much fat people actually eat. The amount of food the main character is described as eating would make her housebound and weighing 600 pounds or more! There is no insight about her; there is no compassion for her. She is looked upon by everyone around her (except for one or two people) with revulsion and disgust. I guess all fat people should just shoot themselves and get it over with if they are not going to lose weight, according to the author. I struggle with my weight, and to see this completely unrealistic portrait of a fat person is truly offensive. Every skinny person who reads this book is only going to judge fat people more. It's hard enough already.
love the depth of the characters, and how beautifully their complex lives are written